Updated: Feb 8
In the first year of its launch, start-up GoBeKids.co sold over $100k of its flagship product, gaining widespread acceptance among customers. This year, GoBe has found even more success as revenues have already exceeded $4 million.
How did GoBe become so successful so quickly? That's what Solanda Moran-Blanch, Co-founder and wife to the other Co-founder, joins us on today’s episode to discuss. In a few minutes, Moran-Blanch will reveal the elements that inspired the brand's "overnight" success and other bonus tips on how to be an effective Co-founder with your spouse.
In today’s episode of the Harvest Growth Podcast, we’ll cover:
Why a lean methodology - a minimum viable product and constant product iterations - is crucial for start-up success.
Why Focus is an important strategy to employ in business development and growth.
What to prioritize when building a winning team of founders and employees.
And so much more!
You can listen to the full interview on your desktop or wherever you choose to listen to your podcasts.
Or, watch the full video interview here!
Visit GoBeKids.co to learn more about their innovative snack spinners and use code “harvestgrowth” at checkout for a 20% discount off any purchase.
Do you have a brand that you’d like to launch or grow? Do you want help from a partner that has successfully launched hundreds of brands that now total over $2 billion in revenues? Set up a free consultation with us today!
Prefer reading instead of listening? Read the full transcript here!
Jon: Today's guest grew her business from zero to over 4 million Dollars in annual revenues in a very short period of time. Besides having a great product, she also dives deep on the strategies, processes and other elements that have been integral to their success.
Moderator: Are you looking for new ways to make your sales grow? You've tried other podcasts, but they don't seem to know. Harvest the growth potential of your product or service as we share stories and strategies that'll make your competitors nervous. Now, here's the host of the HarvestGrowth podcast. John LeClair.
Jon: I'm really excited to have on the show with us today. Solanda Moran-Blanch, she's the co-founder of GoBe. Their website is gobekids.co at the end. Again, as always, it's in the show notes. Please go check it out. We're going to dive in and talk about her great product and great success that she's really built behind this business. Solanda, welcome to the show.
Solanda: Thank you. Thanks for having me. I'm so excited.
Jon: For those in our audience who aren't yet familiar with your main product, which is the GoBe snack spinner, tell us about the product, what it is and what it does.
Solanda: I have one here in a retail packaging. The snack spinner is a snack container that has a button in the middle and then one opening, I guess I don't have one, but I can show you. The kid has access to one slot at a time, so you keep snacks in it while they enjoy the one that's accessible and they are engaged. I don't know. It's pretty self-explanatory. Kids love it.
Jon: For those that are listening, I encourage everyone to check out the website. Obviously, many of you might be driving and hearing the audio only on this. If you didn't see the video, check it on the website, but it is just a simple button. You press in the middle, and there's five compartments on all of them. Each time you hit the button, it spins and you open up one compartment at a time to access one snack for your kids to be able to take with them as they leave the house or whether they're home with you as well. How'd you come up with a name originally? GoBe.
Solanda: Joseph, I'm going to talk about Joseph here. He's my co-founder. Our husband and wife duo and he was working on another idea that was related to kids and that's where we consolidated the name GoBe. It was a fun little word that went along with that product that ended up being non-viable for us. We had to pivot and then that's when we pivot to these products. Long story short, it's just the name that we had from the previous product that didn't make it to market.
Jon: It still works well with this. I love it, especially with the website. GoBeKids. At the end of the day you're trying to help them to eat more healthy, but also enjoy themselves and still be kids. It's not about making healthy decisions painful, but making it a good and fun experience. I think it fits that name of the product so well. Sometimes we happen across great ideas or great names for our products as opposed to being planned away in advance or whatever. It might be connected to a different product, but it fits so well. Yes, I love it.
Solanda: It does. You make me think of the time when we created this snack spinner. You talked about making or helping kids eat healthy in a fun engaging way. I was struggling as a mother. We had our first girl and then a baby on the hip. Our second girl was born. I was overly concerned about her eating. She was leaning towards eating crunchy foods, so crackers, lots of dry foods. Her digestion wasn't working very well, and I was very concerned.
I don't know if you remember when your kids were little to be either worried for what they were eating or for what they were not eating. I don't know if other parents would relate to the fact that sometimes we worry for their size, maybe they're too small or maybe they're too big. I was concerned about certain things for our girl that I started withholding some of those snacks that she leaned towards, which now looking back I understand kids look for that sensory crunch, like that sensory experience.
They need their input. I started restricting her crackers intake and I had to go back to learning-- what I had studied in college, there is something called a division of responsibilities in feeding. This is where we the parents provide the options, which is what this snack spinner did for me. We created something that could give me peace of mind where I could give options. I could give the crunchy stuff and I could give juicy nutritious foods.
Then I could let my kid do her job, which is eating and choosing how much to eat or even the weather of eating. The idea behind this snack spinner is rooted in this division of responsibilities in feeding the parent provides, the kid decides what and how much. We created it for peace of mind.
Jon: Love it. Parent provides, kid decides. I love that. We talked before this interview started, we both have four kids. Mine are a little bit older than yours, but I've gone through these stages as well of-- I remember back in the day, of course, when they're starting to make their own decisions and just, it's really just guideposts as parents will give them. Give them the ability to start to make decisions at a young age, but they do need some guidance. Some restraints I guess they start to learn how to make good decisions. That can start with simple snacking, something that they do starting [crosstalk] at a very very young age.
Solanda: They enjoy the autonomy and fast forward I learned that I needed to honestly heal my own relationship with that food that she was so focused on, and I needed to make it available. We healed from that. I had to have it available and not limited. I was limiting in the past. Now if the crackers are there, she might not even pick them because I've stepped back and I've let her be in tune with her own body, which is something that we also support.
We want parents to be able to respect their kids' body autonomy in what they put in their mouths and whatnot and respect that. My second Mercy, she used to eat avocados, then she stopped eating avocados very randomly. We didn't force on her. One day we made these face masks. We used avocados on her face. She started eating and she got all these red bumps.
Solanda: She had this allergy to it, so we never know. Some kids have sensory processing issues and sensory processing disorders. When we are forcing a kid to eat it might be very damaging for them. We just hope that our parents can honor their kids' autonomy in that regard, and of course, we give options within limits.
Jon: Well said. It's so interesting. Let's jump over to business part of the conversation on this. You've built a really successful business behind this great product, achieving about 4 million Dollars in revenue this year. We'll get to that how we built up to that. I'd love to start back at the beginning. You've got a process for your business. One of the first things you did before launching, before investing time and energy, and money too much into it, you validated the product. What did you do early on to help you validate?
Solanda: I need to say Joseph is the brain of all of this. He had been learning, I'm serious, I'm the experiential person, I'm giving these ideas, but he brought it to life. He had been learning about the Lean Startup approach for a few years. He read a couple of books, but it wasn't until he found John Richards. I have my note here because this is a great resource for anyone who's trying to validate product. He did the course, Startup Ignition, I think their website is startupignition.com.
Anyway, he took the course and John Richards made all these principles very tangible and practical for him. Joseph went from being a mechanical engineer, full-time engineer to entrepreneur, he iterated so many ideas prior to finding this snack spinner idea. What it is, the processes, you create the minimum viable product, you get feedback put out there, and then you iterate if it passes something called the wow factor test, then you launch it and you have a successful business product. We did that with this snack spinner. Remember I was worried about my kids eating. I had been buying small containers and packing up fruit on the go. I'm just on the go always to the park, to the library, to the museum, to activities, play dates, all of it. He had seen me doing this. I had also tried [unintelligible 00:10:12] snacks and Ziplocs and all of these on the go, and I so much dislike our car dirty. It was really hard. This experience that Joseph remember is when I was in the front seat and I didn't want to hand out the snacks. I was passing one Cheerio at the time, but he [unintelligible 00:10:32] and brought this animation of something similar to the snack container.
It wasn't pretty but it had 10 slots and one opening, and then this button that was indexing one slot. He says that I didn't like it at first, but it was genius. It was containing the messes. That was the first idea. I was excited. We put it out there through a survey. We sent it out to our friends, our first validation activity, I guess, and we got great feedback. They were so pumped up and they told us all of the things that were wrong too. We crafted the survey so that they could just be very open. We iterated. Joseph iterated. We created another animation and then we sent out a survey to anonymous people. I can't remember the surveys, but the segment that targeted women were extremely excited about this concept. That was another validation experience.
Then we did focus groups. We did two focus groups. On the second focus group we did, there was a kid, and just by then, Joseph had already 3D printed a snack spinner. By then the button was actually working and indexing. During that focus group we got the highest validation score we could ever had. I can't remember the exact number, but seeing this boy, pushing the button, and indexing the rath there, was just so thrilling for him. The parents helped us dissect all the concepts about the snack spinner that could work, what wouldn't, we learned so much. We iterated.
Just in short, this process talks about creating that minimum viable product and putting it out there, getting feedback, iterating. Then we did the ultimate validating experience, which is selling like, "Would people buy this?" One of our founders, Western, he created a website. We launched the People Bob. People were buying without even having the product. We launch pre-orders and that's the process.
Jon: Love it. No, thank you. You explained it so well. It's very similar to a process and we've launched hundreds of products, as our audience knows, over the last, almost 20 years in total, but a long time. We've been doing this a long time and the process, frankly, that we've honed is very similar to what you do. I use different words. For us, it's test then optimize. You talk about iteration, but it really is that proven model of like, "Hey, get learnings as easily and cheaply as possible in the beginning, improve, test with people, friends first, and people you don't know later on that could be even more objective." Perfect process. I'm glad to hear it. It's always grateful to hear additional validation, it's working and, of course, it's worked so well for you.
Solanda: I do want to say something, Jon. Joseph went through, I believe, it's 11 other ideas during, I think it was-- I forget. 18 months, but he iterated quickly and failed quickly. I think that's key in this process.
Jon: That's a great way to put that. I think it's important to understand the importance of failure. It's okay. It's okay to fail along the way, because you'd so much rather fail with versions 1 through 10 and then launch number 11 that's a great success like it's become for you than to quickly go to like, "Ah, it's close enough. Launch the first one." It was probably, I'm sure the first version was good, but not great. Not as good as it eventually became.
Going through some pain and the willingness to be able to have small failures along the way is such an important part of the product development process and it's often overlooked because if we can't separate, if we can't be objective about our products, which is so hard for inventors. We come up with this and we love it because we made it, but if we can separate a little bit and be a little bit more objective, get other people involved to help us in that iteration or optimization, well said. That's a great way to put it.
Solanda: I'm like, "We are innovating as we speak" and as our ambassadors, we love our ambassadors. They have so much to share. They love voicing their opinions. They are customers of GöBe they're like a VIP group and they invalidated one of our lunch boxes. We had this beautiful lunch pail that would stack on top of each other and it didn't pass our wow factor test. We had to pivot. We were super excited. It looked super cute, but it was not what they needed.
Jon: That's good. You loved it, but you got to make sure your customer loves it. I think well said.
Jon: You talked about you built this website, it became successful. What would you consider your first big success? You had some sales in the beginning, but what was your first big success for the business?
Solanda: Oh, man. Honestly, just going to small steps is having that wow factor test number high. During focus groups, that number had to be high so that we could actually launch it on a website. For example, with the lunch pail, the stack of the lunchbox, we would have not. We would not put it on the website if it doesn't pass a test. We put the large snack spinner on the website and it's the most requested product that we have right now, but anyway, I lost track of what the question was. Please [unintelligible 00:16:25]
Jon: Just your first big success.
Solanda: Oh, I guess selling 100,000 in the first year. That was huge.
Jon: That's fantastic.
Solanda: I know that was huge. Another big success is not our success, but people, our people, people who pre-ordered, they were so forgiving. We ended up delivering months after we promised them. We were going to ship in May. We ended up shipping in September. It was a huge hurdle to go through and it created this platform for connecting with them and bringing them on the journey of bringing a product to life. It was a very neat experience actually.
Right now, we're experiencing less delays than back then, but with the lunchbox and the snack spinner and we were so grateful for our people. We're grateful for them. We have learned all throughout that. Parents who are buying GöBe products are very proactive. They think ahead. Anyway.
Jon: You talk about your team and obviously, that's extremely important. Well, is there a process that you follow or something that's helped you to select the right team members as you build up your company?
Solanda: Yes, 100%. We use something, it's a software, I don't know. Hiring tool. It's called the Culture Index Survey.
Jon: Yes, sure.
Solanda: It is similar to the Gallup Test and all these Myers-- I don't even know how to say them, but it helps us understand ourselves as founders and core employees of the company, and it allow us to know how to build like, "What are our weaknesses? What are our strengths?" We lean into our strengths and then we find someone who can meet those weaknesses. The Culture Index Survey allows us to measure and see what each team member's natural state is, what they would do in their sleep. That's what we want them to be doing at work so that it doesn't require them to modify their behavior, but it's challenging work as well. Does that answer your question?
Jon: Yes. No, absolutely. I think, of course, we need to train our employees to match our values and to handle processes that are very specific to us, but as you suggest or alluded to on there, we can't change who they are. It's finding their core elements that make them successful in their previous career, whatever they were doing before then, but really, it's a definition of who they are and then you can fit them in into the small tasks that they need to do. Just these true strengths are so important to really discover. That's a great tool. You mentioned the Culture Index Survey. There's others like you said, like it, but having some kind of a tool to help us along the way is so important.
Solanda: And our mentors. I would say our mentors have helped us understand ourselves. Something else that we do to help our team, which goes back to the strategy or the process is EOS. We use the entrepreneur operating system. I think it's called EOS. It helps us create these consistent checkpoints to just ensure that our team is doing well. [chuckles] We try to have open communication that helps our team in regards to building is just-- we have our process due. I don't know.
Solanda: How much into detail do you want me to go?
Jon: No, this is great. This is helpful.
Solanda: I feel like I'm going into tangents right now.
Jon: No, it's great. This is all helpful stuff. It's a peak under the tent of what's made you so successful. There's a lot of elements to it. Along the way too we all face distress or struggles with our business. There is some times of distress or struggles with you guys.
Solanda: Yes, absolutely. We've had great mentors to tell us the real deal and I can-- Delaying shipping pre-orders was a huge struggle then a few months later we're moving across the country and the pandemic hit. Joseph has a strategic mind, brilliant mind, and I remember sitting down with him and he said, "Okay, this pandemic could break GoBe." We had funded-- we had put a lot of money on marketing to reach our audience.
We had debt. People kept buying this product. We kept running out of inventory and we had something. We sat down and we came up with four different paths that we could follow. Even though we are a very focused company, I guess we focused on one product that was the way we focused, but yet we pursued different avenues. Just a little parenthesis. People have been asking us for the largest snack spinner since we first launched.
We had to focus on one so that we could take care of the business and grow it and if no, it would die. We pursue different avenues. We pursue our sales avenues. Boutiques, we had Amazon Canada selling through our own website, we looked into organic growth and word-of-mouth marketing has been a huge part of Gobe as well. We looked into working with our ambassadors and through them then we looked into fundraising to fund these bigger-- we were having more demand, but we couldn't fund our buying more inventory.
I can't recall the other two avenues right now, but we ended up pursuing the fundraising, and that created such an amazing platform for meeting people. That's how we found our retail partner. We have our retail team through fundraising. One of our customers and investors, she introduced us to our retail partner. That's how we are in conversations with Costco, again, they're interested in the launch box. It's like you never know what avenue is going to be open the door for the next step of growth. For us, fundraising did that.
Jon: I love how you talked about the power, the importance of focus to get through distress struggles, things like that. You also talked about being open to things that are going to come upon you. You realize as part of your focus, you needed to pursue fundraising but opening your eyes to opportunities that approach you. Through that, you found other opportunities? Realize that go down your path, stay focused as you need to, but make sure your eyes are open and you're looking around for creative and new and different opportunities for business at every step of the way.
Solanda: Yes. My mom was telling me earlier this week, she said, "Have you guys thought about doing other things, thinking like along the lines of pursuing other areas, other areas of focus, literally other services, toys." It was a great opportunity for me to share with her how focus is such a key part of success. It is so key. Yes, we're working through different channels to reach parents who would benefit with this product, but we are focused on these one product now, these three products. I don't know. No, we're not looking into creating toys [laughs] right now.
Jon: Well, this has been a really fun interview, Solanda, I really appreciate you taking the time. Is there anything I didn't ask in this interview that you think would be helpful for our audience?
Solanda: Oh, let me think. Okay, I told you in my email, it wasn't part of the main points I wanted to share, but something that I think is key with couple founders is communication and having that constant feedback loop of how we are doing. I guess what's the gist of it is having open communication. It could be very easy to be resentful [chuckles] from my end or from his end, whichever. I get to spend more time with the kids, he gets to have more time on his own. It's like there could be so many areas for suffering, but having open communication makes those easy to address. I guess. [laughs]
Jon: Well said. I think especially important for a couple that's running a business, but whether you've got business partners or even with your employees, communication is so key. It's different. It's going to be very different in a married relationship than it is with any other business relationship. Communication is so key to make sure you not only get to success, but you stay there by being helpful to everybody, all the stakeholders along the way, whether that's partners married spouse, or key employees as well.
Solanda: Yes, we play to each other's strengths. [laughs]
Jon: Fantastic. I want to encourage everybody, please go visit Solanda's website, gobekids.co, co at the end. Again, it's in the show notes, so if you're driving check it out later. She's been kind enough to offer a promo code as well to all of our listeners. If you enter in harvestgrowth, all one word, no space between them, you'll get a 20% discount off of your purchase as well. Either way, be sure to check out the website, learn more about her product, and see the great work she's done along the way. Solanda, thanks so much for your time. I really appreciate that.
Solanda: Thank you so much. I wish you success in all you're doing, you're bringing so much goodness to the world through this podcast and the services you offer as well.
Jon: Thank you very much. I appreciate it and best of luck to you.
Solanda: Thank you. Bye.
Jon: For the listeners, please go to gobekids.co to learn more. Also, be sure to check out harvestgrowth.com to see other episodes we've recorded. If you like this episode, you want to learn more about how you can profitably grow your consumer product sales, please subscribe to our show. Be sure to leave us a review and feel free to reach out to us via our website.
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